I’m a cynic by nature. I like to pick apart things and complain about what could have been and what should be. It takes a lot to crack my thick hide. I’m extremely pleased to say that A Girl in the Himalayas, published by Archaia, succeeded after the first few pages.
The story is deceptively simple: a young girl named Vijaya lives in a village in the Himalayas. One day, her home is burned down by a group of men. Without a home or family, Vijaya wanders the Himalayas before collapsing due to the cold. Her plight is witnessed by two immortal spirits: Vasu and Prasad. Prasad intervenes and saves Vijaya from the cold but sacrifices his own immortality to do so. Vasu and the now-mortal Prasad do their best to raise Vijaya in their elemental sanctuary in the hopes of steering her away from the path of most humans and, instead, teaching her the values of the Earth and the spirits that live within it.
The rest is a delightful mix between a children’s story and an epic mythological legend. The story is simple enough for children to follow but carries enough emotional weight and nuance that any adult will find plenty to enjoy about it. The three leads of the story – Vijaya, Prasad, and Vasu – are all distinct and likable while still showing character flaws and the ability to learn and grow.
As for the art style, this was the area I was expecting to struggle with the most. The style is simplistic, but expressive and fun. There were one or two instances where I felt the art got just a messy, usually on extreme closeups on objects or people, but, overall, I think the visuals of the story are exceptional. Subtle artistic choices like the depiction of Vasu’s missing eye whenever he’s conflicted or the clever use of the limited palette (yellow, orange, black, and white making up the entire book) elevate the visuals beyond an initially humble appearance.
The book initially looks daunting at 180 pages, but, ultimately, dialogue is kept to a minimum, instead letting the emotions of the story and art carry most of the weight. I found my first read through only took about a half hour and that included stops to take notes and reread sections.
Ultimately, most of the work a reviewer encounters is part of a bigger series. Every issue of Batman carries with it the inherent good and bad aspects of a Batman story. The same goes for an issue of The Walking Dead or Spider-Man. An original story has the much harder job of trying to stand on its own; its accomplishments and its failures are entirely its own. I’m delighted to say that A Girl in the Himalayas stands up as something truly special that just about anyone will be able to find joy in reading. I heartily recommend it, especially to anyone with young children.
Creative Team: David Jesus Vignolli (writer), David Jesus Vignolli (artist)
Publisher: Archaia / BOOM! Studios
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